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Counting Blessings Amidst Our Tragedies

November 4, 2016 by  
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In last week’s blog, I talked about how all people have difficulties and tragedies. I’m fully aware that my problems mentioned didn’t sound that huge. Some readers might have even been saying to themselves, “Oh the unfortunate rich guy has major problems, huh? What a tragedy he’s had with that terrible common cold. I feel so sorry for him … not!”

My main point of the blog really wasn’t about my very small and temporary health issue but rather was about how we all need to rejoice more often and count our blessings. We need to do it every day and do it before we face a truly huge loss such as a severe health decline or the loss of family or friends.

There is an old Mormon hymn called “Count Your Many Blessings”. One of the lines goes “name them one by one.” I find this to be very profound in that it defines a great way to live each day. If we stop to recognize each of our blessings, it actually can improve our lives and make us feel better, just like what I learned some time ago about how smiling releases good chemicals into your brain, even doing  the same thing when we force a smile.

Like many people if not most, I’ve had some major tragedies in my life that I will never forget—there was my 17-year-old brother who died right in front of me on the basketball court when I was 15 and, the biggest and most terrible shock of my life, when my 16-year-old daughter died. Even though I’ll never really get over those tragedies, I’ve learned to live with the reality of what happened and it has made me more aware of living in the great ‘right now’. It has made me take notice and count the blessings in my life every day.

I remember vividly after my daughter died being totally depressed and laying around doing nothing but feeling sorry for myself for many, many months. Then suddenly I realized that I was completely neglecting my other children. I saw how important they were and how blessed I was to have such good productive, active, loving and lovable kids. I lifted myself out of the dumps and started to notice and pay attention to them and appreciate all the goodness around me.

As I mentioned last week, traveling through parts of Africa was a real eye opener. Our train traveled though many villages filled with garbage, spotted with homes that were just ten by ten foot shacks topped with flimsy roofs held down with rocks. As all too skinny kids ran along the side of the tracks waving at the train, I couldn’t help but see how good we have it. If we are paying attention, we’ll know we need to appreciate all our blessings every day.

So, let’s all take time to notice, take time to appreciate, and take time to love what we have and not just family and friends but even strangers. We need to start giving more back to those who need help. None of us know how long our loved ones and friends will be with us; tragedy can strike any of our lives at any time. So even if you have disagreements and arguments or find yourself angry at those around you, try to step back and look at the bigger picture and be grateful and appreciative of those people. Remember just how important they are to you and just how small the differences are that get in the way.

 

 

I Have the Perfect Life—-Not

October 28, 2016 by  
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My last 2 blogs told of the super wonderful and exciting African Safari that my wife and I took along with our dear friend Francoise Eriksen. It was a perfect trip–all went well without any hiccups or unpleasant surprises! I’m guessing that some of my readers are thinking “Oh, what a perfect life that guy Mark has. He’s wealthy, had his 15 minutes of fame, probably lives in a mansion, and travels the world first class.”

I remember so vividly thinking exactly that as I read about the rich and famous people of the world. I really thought they must have had a perfect life—but, oh, how wrong I was.

p1020832Right after we returned from the African Safari two things happened. I watched and listened to a super famous and wealthy man on T.V. (worth hundreds of millions) talk about the tragedies in his life. He was miserable but how people all around him didn’t believe him. They really thought he had a smooth and perfect life without any bad stuff but that was so far from the truth and the reality of his life.

The second thing that happened was me coming down with the worst common cold that I’ve had in many years. Wow. Talk about major mucus and a constant hacking cough that left me breathless and with very little sleep. Ugh and super ugh! Then a thought struck me and I said to myself, “Wait a minute … why didn’t I appreciate and give great thanks for my super great health while on the Safari and, for that matter, the last 3 or 4 years that I’ve have without any sickness whatsoever?”

Isn’t it quite amazing that most of us human beings don’t appreciate or give thanks for what we have until we lose it–whether it’s our health, good relationships, money, our jobs, or–how about this one–living in a great and free country. I will say this … traveling through South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe I couldn’t help but think about how good we have it in this great country, even the poorest among us are better off than some of the people I observed as our train passed through African villages where they lived with terrible conditions.

So my message this week is, let’s all take time to pause and think about and take notice and appreciate our health, wealth (however large or small), relationships, and this great country that we live in. And let’s do that right now and not wait till we’ve lost some of it.

Next week I want to talk about some other challenges in my life. Everybody’s life, no matter how rich or famous, has its troubles and its tragedies as well as much to be grateful for.

The Big 5 and Brain Stimulation

October 14, 2016 by  
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Okay, I must start out this week exclaiming … WOW, WOW, DOUBLE WOW! That’s the kind of brain reaction most humans have when they experience something totally new, unexpected, and novel. I’ve had a ton of novel experiences in my 72 years of living and certainly a big part of that has been new places I’ve visited, new things I’ve seen, the people I met, and the activities I’ve been involved with in the 84 different countries I’ve visited.

In the last two weeks, however, I saw and experienced something totally different that I’ve ever seen or done before. And yes it was in a country that I’ve never even come close to before. In fact, four new countries in total. It was an African Safari! I never had it on my bucket list but some friends did it and said it was fantastic so I thought I’d give it a try even though just the thought of it made me very nervous.

We started the adventure by flying into Johannesburg, South Africa and after a few days we headed for Kruger National park. There we met out guide and his spotter man who rode on a platform on the front of the jeep, on the lookout for one of the “Big 5” (the 5 most dangerous animals for humans to hunt or to be around) and yes, he was armed with a big powerful rifle. So off we went looking for the wild ones. Less than an hour later the jeep stopped and the lookout man got off with his rifle in hand. He had spotted lion tracks. Off he went on foot into the wild using a radio to let our guide know exactly where he was and what he was seeing.

A short time later we left the beat up dirt road and dove over trees, bushes and huge rocks that I swear were about to tip us over. About 15 minutes later, there they were–a pride of 14 lions, 7 of which were cubs. My wife and I and a dear friend from Park City, Utah who joined us on the trip, were frozen in our seats as the lions slowly approached our very wide open jeep. The jeep had stopped but let me tell you my heart rate didn’t–it doubled! All I could think of was how easy it would be for the papa lion to leap into the jeep and have me for lunch. But slowly the entire pride walked by us, looking us in the eye and coming within 6 or 8 feet of the jeep! We watch as they walked away and then drove on to look for the next on the list of the big 5.

I want to talk more about what other brain pumping stuff we saw but I do want to emphasize that to introduce yourself to novel experiences and sights that really stimulate your brain you don’t actually have to travel to foreign countries, so please don’t think you have to go far and wide to pump up your brain. However, visiting other cultures and or countries or even other religions does help. There are lots of very simple things you can do that don’t cost a ton of money or take a lot of time that will pump up your brain.

My son David, for example, gets this with 2 AM phone calls for his volunteer search and rescue work which is very challenging. It takes him into the mountains, on cliffs, and into rivers and lakes. It’s very exciting, brain pumping, and life enhancing stuff for him and it’s all in areas not far from where he lives.

Next week I will talk about and suggest some other simple things each of us can do to pump up our brains and, as a result, enhance our lives.

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